US eyes December agreement on F-35 jets with UAE

US & UAE hope to have an agreement on the sale of F-35 in place by December and Washington studies how to do it without running afoul of Israel

Sources close to the negotiations said the goal is to have a letter of agreement in place in time for UAE National Day celebrated on Dec. 2.

Any deal must satisfy decades of agreement with Israel that states any U.S. weapons sold to the region must not impair Israel’s “qualitative military edge,” guaranteeing U.S. weapons furnished to Israel are “superior in capability” to those sold to its neighbors.

With that in mind Washington is studying ways to make the Lockheed Martin Corp LMT.N F-35 more visible to Israeli radar systems, two sources said. Reuters could not determine if this would be done by changing the jet or providing Israel with better radar, among other possibilities.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz was due to meet his U.S. counterpart Mark Esper in Washington on Tuesday.

The UAE embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The White House declined to comment.

A Pentagon spokeswoman told Reuters, “as a matter of policy, the United States does not confirm or comment on proposed defense sales or transfers until they are formally notified to Congress.”

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Michael Biton, minister in the Defence Ministry of Israel, said on Israel’s Army Radio that if the UAE buys F-35s it would be possible to “preserve the relative defensive advantage” of Israel’s military.

Once a letter of agreement is signed, a fine may be levied against any party that terminates the deal. Several political and regulatory hurdles must be cleared before the sale may be completed and Capitol Hill aides cautioned a deal may not be possible this year.

Ellen Lord, the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer, told reporters in August that in general, the United States aims to complete a letter of agreement for new F-35 sales in about six months.

Read more: Reuters